Dubbed as one of the most beautiful landmarks of the natural world, Pamukkale, in the Denizli region of Turkey is a top visited attraction enticing more than 2 million domestic and foreign visitors ever year.
Along with the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, the UNESCO World heritage site is a biological phenomenon with its white travertine pools cascading down the southern slope of the Salpak mountains and its unique appearance has led it to be nicknamed the Cotton Castle of Turkey.
Thermal spring waters with an average temperature of 45 degrees celsius contain high amounts of carbon dioxide and calcium which eventually separates and solidifies to form small pools, suitable at certain times of the year for bathing.
For centuries, many have testified to the healing qualities of the water including Roman soldiers who used the city as a base and scientists who say it is good for curing skin diseases, rheumatism and tension. With historical and health values, this beautiful landmark should be on everyone’s list of places to visit in Turkey.
Previously under threat from mainstream tourism, management at Pamukkale now practise responsible tourism to preserve as much of the natural travertine pools as possible. They demolished hotels and now ask visitors to remove shoes before walking on the travertines, therefore protecting the natural appearance.
The pools, however, are just a small fraction of what to see in the area because they used to belong to the ancient city of Hierapolis. In history, it was named the sacred city and the guide of the east, and its citizens flourished under Byzantine rule when Hierapolis was commercially successful.
As one of the first destinations to fully embrace Christianity, it enjoyed a lucrative timeline until various external factors such as wars, looting and earthquakes caused it to be completely deserted by the 12th century. Excavations started in 1887 and are still ongoing so there is always something new to see.
Entering via the southern entrance through the Byzantine gate, flanked by the old city walls, the first dramatic sight is the Hellenistic 15,000 seater theatre built into the side of the mountain. From there, the ruins are spread out and include the Martyrium of Saint Philip, the Nymphaeum Fountain and the Grand Northern Baths.
The Hierapolis and Pamukkale museum is close by and it holds the finest marble statues, decorated sarcophagus, and small artefacts all combining to form a marvelous collection of personal items depicting the lives of the citizens of Hierapolis.
Coming out of the museum, Cleopatra’s Pool is a chance to swim leisurely over ancient fallen columns from the city. Surrounded by restaurants serving refreshments, relax before heading for photos at the travertine pools. With an all-encompassing view of Pamukkale village in the background, the surreal ambiance perfectly portrays why it is one of the world’s most beautiful places.
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